The below image provides an overview of the process involved in conducting a systematic review.
This guide has been designed to follow this process and provide opportunity for you to gain more information on each step as you click on the tabs above.
Systematic reviews are originated in health and medicine disciplines, however they are also used in other disciplines including social sciences, sciences and engineering. This guide will provide a mixture of resources to cater for all disciplines.
The Cochrane Library defines a systematic review:
A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view aimed at minimizing bias, to produce more reliable findings to inform decision making.
Key characteristics of a systematic review are:
The table below provides a brief description of various reviews. There are tools such as the 'what review is right for you?' that can assist in helping you decide which review to conduct.
|Type of Review||Description|
Systematic reviews are the best known type of review in certain fields. They aim for exhaustive, comprehensive searching and recommendations for practice.
Scoping reviews provide an ‘environmental scan’ (preliminary assessment) of the literature that is currently available in an area of research.
Scoping reviews differ from mapping reviews as the outcome is only the review, not to conduct further reviews or research.
Meta-analysis provides statistical combination of the results of quantitative studies. They aim for exhaustive, comprehensive searching. Meta-analysis can be included in systematic reviews, but note that not all systematic reviews contain a meta-analysis.
Qualitative reviews are interpretative studies that can incorporate reports from users and observations from practitioners to allow for broader understanding than data-only would allow.
For a more detailed list of review types, see:
Grant, M.J. & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: An analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91-108. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-1842.2009.00848.x
Munn, Z., Peters, M. D. J., Stern, C., Tufanaru, C., McArthur, A., & Aromataris, E. (2018). Systematic review or scoping review? Guidance for authors when choosing between a systematic or scoping review approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 18(1), 143. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-018-0611-x
Munn, Z., Stern, C., Aromataris, E., Lockwood, C., & Jordan, Z. (2018). What kind of systematic review should I conduct? A proposed typology and guidance for systematic reviewers in the medical and health sciences. BMC medical research methodology, 18(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12874-017-0468-4